Tuesday, 28 February 2017
In the spring of 1990, the Rush Centre Women's Institute ladies in Esther took it upon themselves to initiate the making of a Community History Book, the above photo shows the executive of the history book. There had been one done years before and it was a very small pamphlet type of book. These ladies decided this one was going to be much more in-depth information about the history of Esther and surrounding School Districts. My mother, Olive Parks was elected Editor of the project and off they went. For those of you who knew Mom, you knew this thing was going to get done and done right. Well, it turned into a colossal event for a small community. The actual stories and photos started coming in almost immediately after the announcement and it snowballed from there. By November of 1990, the final draft was shipped to Friesen Printers in Winnipeg. As per usual, there were a few minor changes but eventually, it was ready to go to print, 1200 pages and I am proud to say we did it with only one spelling error. The books were delivered to Esther the morning of the Homecoming in June of 1991, celebrating 80 years as a community. I still pick this volume up and scan through it and a lot of my blog information comes from this book. I am very proud to say I AM FROM ESTHER, ALBERTA.
Sunday, 26 February 2017
Betty Rumohr, was one of my first teachers and I will always remember that wonderful smile. She was a kind person and was passionate about teaching as she was about us all learning to the best of our ability. She taught in both the Esther Country School and the Esther Town School. The Esther Town School was originally Excelda School and when it closed because of small attendance and its location, it was in the middle of a pasture close to where my Dad grew up. I will always remember Betty, she was the only teacher I ever had that consistently called me Ronald, it is my name but most called me Ron.
Saturday, 25 February 2017
Yes, there really was an Orchard in the Esther Community. A gentleman by the name of Allan Stewart traveled from Ontario with his sister and filed a homestead on the NE 1/4-14-31-2W4. He had difficult times making a go of growing grain and surviving on a 1/4 section of very light land. He joined up with a friend and they traveled the harvest circuit in Montana and states east. When he came back to Esther he decided he needed to protect his shack from the winds so he started planting a shelterbelt. Inside the shelterbelt, he started planting fruit trees, small apples, and plums and they flourished in that type of soil. Everyone in the community would go to the "Orchard" in the fall to pick and purchase fruit from Mr. Stewart. I remember him very well as his place was only a half mile east of our farm. In 1954 Mr. Stewart fell ill and went back to Ontario, he sold the property to my Dad. To this day I believe there are still apples growing there even tho no one is there to look after them. Just imagine an "Orchard" in the middle of the prairie.
Wednesday, 22 February 2017
The old Esther Curling Rink was always a hub of activity during the winter months. There was square draw curling, open bonspiels, women's bonspiels, men's bonspiels and school curling. My Dad was one of the caretakers of the rink so I was the resident rink rat. I always remember the big boiler full of coffee, the homemade stew, soups and best of all was all that homemade pie. One winter during the ladies bonspiel, My Dad (Don Parks), Robert Brockman, Bill Dalton Jr. and Elvin Person dressed up as ladies and entered the women's bonspiel. They got lots of hoots and hollers and had a whole lot of fun. Growing up in a small community, gave us all great opportunities to participate in the community events and learn to volunteer to keep the community working smoothly. My mother was always involved in the community and as I got older I participated and now my daughters and granddaughter are volunteers in their respective communities.
Monday, 20 February 2017
The big old barn and a fine herd of horses are where the Big Bend Ranch got its start. Knut and Frida Westerlund moved from Sweden to Esther via Regina and several other stops along the way in 1925. In 1940 Len (Knut & Frida's son) and Marjorie purchased 3 cows and 3 heifers from Cecil Habberfield and the following spring their boys Douglas and Lloyd each bought a heifer from Fred Beynon Sr.. The cattle were all of Wincott breeding and this was how the Big Bend Hereford Ranch became to be. The barn still stands today and is home to some of the ancestors of those first cows and heifers. The ranch is operated by great grandchildren and great-great grandchildren of Knut and Frida.
Saturday, 18 February 2017
Last week one beautiful afternoon, we decided to take a quick drive east to see if we could find some unique photo ops. We made our way over to Kingman, Alberta and this old school caught my eye. It appeared to be part of the town landscape so I took a photo of it and posted it on the Abandoned Alberta site. A gentleman, who's mother had actually taught school in Kingman in 1947 gave me the actual history of this school. It was the original Dinant School, between Kingman and Camrose, the school was closed and moved to Camrose for storage and then in 1979, it was moved once again to Kingman. As we travel around the countryside there are so many old buildings that catch our eye and it is so nice to get the actual history on them. Thank you to Larry Flemming for his input on this one.
Wednesday, 15 February 2017
Tuesday, 14 February 2017
The Esther Garage has been photographed by many, including my good friend Dale Stewert. We met for coffee and have traveled the province together taking photos because he had taken a photo of this old building, it was built in the early 40’s by Clayton Ball and Harry Hunter to store their truck in. Since that time it has had several owners. The office part of the garage was even used as a school for a couple years. Some of the owners were Sam McKnight, Henry Kroeger ( Massey Harris and Dodge cars). Henry's grandson is Chad Kroeger, Nickleback. Ed Schroeder used it as a welding and repair shop, Bruce, Jim and Roy Pratt ran it as an automotive repair and sold gas, I remember the old gravity feed gas pump and a huge machinist press inside, which is still there. The garage is still standing and is used for storage and is owned by Bill Dalton.
Saturday, 11 February 2017
Moving in the early years was an adventure, Tom Short arrived in Saskatoon, Sk. from Ontario in 1912, where he met and married his bride. They loaded all of their earthly belongings onto the train and traveled west to Kindersley which was the end of the rail at that time. Tom bought a wagon and a pair of oxen and with the help of a friend they proceeded to the homestead on the NW 1/4 of 14-31-2W4. At that time Esther had not been developed as a town and Loverna was the closest town. The Shorts dammed up a spring which eventually became a swimming hole and water for the cattle. That swimming hole was developed into a larger dam after my Dad (Don Parks) purchased the Short farm and for many years it was known as Parks Dam, it was on the Fish and Wildlife map for many years as it had been stocked with rainbow trout.
Friday, 10 February 2017
Over the years there have been several private pilots in the Esther community. Ron Barnett and his Piper Cub, carried a little freight and sprayed a few crops for himself and the neighbors. Bob Bamber and his Citabria could be seen buzzing around the countryside in the evenings. Roy and Roxie Pratt and their Cessna 182 traveling about the province on business and pleasure. Rick Strankman and his commercial spray plane spending countless hours spraying crops and grasshoppers when they were hungry. Steve Kuzmiski could be seen out enjoying his 172 and Doug and Joyce Westerlund also both had their licenses. Just a hop and a skip to the east were Buck Foss in Loverna and Barry and Delphine Slater south of Loverna with their crop spray planes. All in all, we had a pretty talented group of pilots in our midst. Fly in breakfasts were a common site as well, sometimes at Roy and Roxie's and sometimes at Coates Lake.
Thursday, 9 February 2017
Three of the Pioneers in the Esther and New Brigden communities, Len Westerlund and Jim Pratt hauled the first two loads of grain to the Esther Alberta Wheat Pool elevator in 1926. Len also hauled the last load of grain to the Esther Elevator before it closed. Charlie Wilson was one of the first School Trustees when the Acadia School division was first created. These three gentlemen have all passed on but will always be fondly remembered by their families and the community for their unique sense of humor and willingness to help anyone in their respective communities. I am proud to have known all three of them, Jim Pratt was our closest neighbor at the farm and I had the honor to sit in the Masonic Lodge with both Len and Charlie.
Wednesday, 8 February 2017
By 1912 most of the area between Loverna, Sk. and the sounding Creek had been settled after a devastating prairie fire destroyed everything in its wake in 1910. The Olsens and several other families arrived and settled along the creek. At that time the mail came as far as (Bideford) which is now Altario, Ab. In 1913 the Railroad came to Loverna, the following year Yens Olsen, top photo, started a Post Office in his house, a half mile north of the Town of Esther, which was named for his daughter Esther, he would haul the mail from Loverna to Esther twice a week. In 1925 the Railroad came into Esther and further on west. In 1926 a General Store was built in Esther by Harry Ball and the Post Office was then moved into the store. When Mr. Olsen passed on in 1929, Fred Foot, bottom photo, took over the duties as Post Master until 1958. His son Bill and Ellen Foot then took over the duties assisted by several folks in the community. The Store and Post office was eventually sold to Madge and Bill Dalton and Madge was the Postmaster until the Post Office closed and mailboxes were put in just outside the store where they still are today.
Monday, 6 February 2017
I have travelled around Alberta taking photos of people and places for several years, I have slowly accumulated some very good camera equipment. When I look through all of the Community History Books that I inherited from my mother, Olive Parks, I see some incredible photos taken in the early 1900's and I am amazed by the quality. My Grandparents, Edith and Tom Hewines were married in Candiac, Saskatchewan in 1922 and the photo is so impressive. We need to have a great appreciation for the photographers of the past when we see a great photo like this knowing that the equipment used was very simple in comparison to the standard of cameras we use today and the software that is used to edit the photos. I am personally humbled by these photographers from the past.
Sunday, 5 February 2017
Steve Sankey delivered mail from Hemaruka, Ab. to Loverna Sk. and all of the post offices in between, from January 1, 1946, until December 31, 1949. In those years he delivered mail with various modes of transportation, one of the most unique was his Massey Harris 102 tractor fitted with ski's on the front and a mailbox on the back. He would often use horses and have places along the way to change horses and stay overnight. I remember my Dad talking about Steve staying at the farm and using one of Dad's teams to go onto Loverna, they remained great friends for many years after that. When he came back he would change out the team and carry on to Esther, New Brigden, Sedalia and back home to Hemaruka. When we look back at these times, it gives us a sense of how difficult it was to do something we take for granted today.